Friday, October 8, 2010

Scouting & Camping

When I was 12 years old, my dad enrolled me in the Boy Scouts.  I seem to remember him saying something about "becoming a man" and "leadership".  Well, I was all for that.  It sounded extremely adventurous---there would be camping out in the wilds, tying all kinds of esoteric knots, building campfires, and other manly pursuits.

So, I was fitted for a uniform and began to attend regular meetings.  You can imagine my excitement when I learned we would be going camping over a three day weekend that summer!  Oh, boy! 
Camp Snake?
On a memorable Thursday evening, our troop---about 15 guys between the ages of 12 and 17---headed north from our home in Houston, Texas to Camp Strake, a Boy Scout camp located about 40 miles away.  In those days, Camp Strake was in the wilds---away from the confines of civilization, located among the Texas pines and cacti.
Our pup tent
This will kill ya
Upon arrival, we pitched our tents.  Immediately thereafter, the fun began.  Our fathers, who had driven us there, began to kill rattlesnakes that inhabited our campground.  They killed five of them in a ten minute period.  Of course, this scared the livin' bejeezus out of me.  And to think I was gonna be sleeping in a tent on the same ground with these serpents?  And to think I was gonna have to be there with these snakes for three days and nights?  It was more than I could imagine.  I wanted to go home.  No, my dad said---HE would be going home, but I would be staying.  I think he took some pleasure in my plight.

That night, no one slept a wink.  Every little sound was magnified by the night and our collective fear.  We could hear critters moving just feet away from the tent fabric.  We imagined every rustle of the grass was a huge rattler or perhaps a bobcat.  Someone mentioned that Texas was home to tarantulas, which lived in abundance in that very area.  I was so scared I wanted to die.  There was no way I was gonna live to see my mom and dad and brother again.
Grapevine has a pleasant, grape-like taste when smoked
Things got a little better the first day, but I still wanted to go home.  One of the older boys educated us 12 and 13 year olds on the joys of smoking grapevine, which grows in the wild there.  You would just break off one of the hollow twigs, light one end, and suck the smoke into your mouth.  It had a mild, grapey taste.  Quite pleasant.

The next day we had classes on how to tie various knots and how to build a fire.  Now, this was more like it!  Although let me hasten to add that no one was sleeping at night.  That fear factor was still present, although only one more snake had been killed by our group.  Besides snakes, our camp area was overrun by armadillos.  The armadillo is probably the stupidest animal ever.  But, God must love 'em because He made so darn many.  They would run through the brush at night by our tents and scare the devil out of us.
I thought the armadillo was the stupidest thing on earth until I went on a snipe hunt

Our last night at camp featured the older boys in our group taking us younger guys off into the woods for a midnight snipe hunt.  We were given pillowcases in which to capture the snipes.  We were led individually into the dark, extremely creepy woods and told to kneel down and be very quiet and hold our pillowcase at the ready.  When a snipe came by, we were to snag it in our pillowcase.  I had never heard of snipes before, but the older guys assured me that they were little birds that lived in the woods.  I was told to kneel there and be patient.

By about 3:00 AM I knew I had been had.  About that time, us snipers were rounded up and taken back to camp where we were made fun of and generally made to feel stupid---which we were.  I was beginning to have some serious doubts about this whole concept of "scouting".

The final exclamation point on the unforgettable weekend came when I finally arrived home on Sunday afternoon.  I was tired, embarrassed, filled with low self-esteem, but happy to finally have access to a shower, air conditioning and my own bed.  My mom hugged me, but then all hell broke loose.  She discovered, unbeknownst to me, that I was covered, head to foot, with ticks.  She pulled 24 of them off of me.  Some of them had been there for days---they were fat with the blood they had sucked out of me.  Others were still skinny and "just getting started".  They were in my scalp and all over---and under---my body. 

I was covered with these
 After that trip to Camp Strake (they shoulda' named it "Camp Snake"), I have never looked at camping or scouting quite the same way.


  1. I can barely catch my breath from laughing! This has to be your most "entertaining" blog post yet. Well, look at it this way ... it made a Man out of you! he he

  2. LOL! You have confirmed my dislike for camping! It scares me!!!!!

  3. DW & D--- Ha. Just remember...don't go huntin' for Snipes!

  4. Ha ha...
    What a happy time...ha ha...
    Please, have a wonderful weekend!

  5. Thanks, Wind! Have a great weekend!